U.S.-Philippine relations are based on shared history and commitment to democratic principles, as well as on economic ties. The historical and cultural links between the Philippines and the United States remain strong. The Philippines modeled its governmental institutions on those of the United States and continues to share a commitment to democracy and human rights. At the most fundamental level of bilateral relations, human links continue to form a strong bridge between the two countries. There are an estimated four million Americans of Philippine ancestry in the United States, and more than 250,000 American citizens in the Philippines.
Until November 1992, pursuant to the 1947 Military Bases Agreement, the United States maintained and operated major facilities at Clark Air Base, Subic Bay Naval Complex, and several small subsidiary installations in the Philippines. In August 1991, negotiators from the two countries reached agreement on a draft treaty providing for use of Subic Bay Naval Base by U.S. forces for 10 years. The draft treaty did not include use of Clark Air Base, which had been so heavily damaged by the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo that the United States decided to abandon it.
In September 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected the bases treaty, and despite further efforts to salvage the situation, the two sides could not reach an agreement. As a result, the Philippine Government informed the United States on December 6, 1991, that it would have one year to complete withdrawal. That withdrawal went smoothly and was completed ahead of schedule, with the last U.S. forces departing on November 24, 1992. On departure, the U.S. Government turned over assets worth more than $1.3 billion to the Philippines, including an airport and ship-repair facility. Agencies formed by the Philippine Government have converted the former military bases for civilian commercial use, with Subic Bay serving as a flagship for that effort.
The post-U.S. bases era has seen U.S.-Philippine relations improved and broadened, with a prominent focus on economic and commercial ties while maintaining the importance of the security dimension. U.S. investment continues to play an important role in the Philippine economy, while a strong security relationship rests on the 1952 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). In February 1998, U.S. and Philippine negotiators concluded the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), paving the way for increased military cooperation under the MDT. The agreement was approved by the Philippine Senate in May 1999 and entered into force on June 1, 1999. Under the VFA, the United States has conducted ship visits to Philippine ports and resumed large combined military exercises with Philippine forces. Key events in the bilateral relationship include the July 4, 1996 declaration by President Ramos of Philippine-American Friendship Day in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Philippine independence. Ramos visited the United States in April 1998, and then-President Estrada visited in July 2000. President Arroyo met with President Bush in an official working visit in November 2001, made a state visit in Washington on May 19, 2003, and returned for another working visit on June 24, 2008. President Bush made a state visit to the Philippines on October 18, 2003, during which he addressed a joint session of the Philippine Congress--the first American President to do so since Dwight D. Eisenhower. There are regular U.S. cabinet-level, congressional, and military visits to the Philippines as well.
President Arroyo has repeatedly stressed the close friendship between the Philippines and the United States and her desire to expand bilateral ties further. Both governments seek to revitalize and strengthen their partnership by working toward greater security, prosperity, and service to Filipinos and Americans alike. Inaugurated into office on the same day as President Bush, President Arroyo has lent strong support to the war on terrorism. In October 2003, the United States designated the Philippines as a Major Non-NATO Ally. That same month, the Philippines joined the select group of countries to have ratified all 12 UN counterterrorism conventions.
The annual Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) bilateral military exercises contribute directly to the Philippine armed forces' efforts to root out Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists and bring development to formerly terrorist-plagued areas, notably Basilan and Jolo. They include not only combined military training but also civil-military affairs and humanitarian projects. The International Military Education and Training (IMET) program is the largest in the Pacific and the third-largest in the world, and a Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) was signed in November 2002. Similarly, law enforcement cooperation has reached new levels: U.S. and Philippine agencies have cooperated to bring charges against numerous terrorists, to implement the countries' extradition treaty, and to train thousands of Filipino law enforcement officers. There is a Senior Law Enforcement Advisor helping the Philippine National Police with its Transformation Program.
In FY 2008, the U.S. Government -- working closely with the Philippine Government, civil society, the private sector, and other donors -- provided $132 million in grant funds to support a more peaceful and prosperous Philippines. About 60 percent of economic assistance resources are targeted for Mindanao, for programs that promote economic growth, mitigate conflict, and promote peace and security. The United States supports programs that promote good governance at the national and local levels, improve electoral systems, promote rule of law, help address constraints to trade and investment, improve revenue collection/administration and fiscal transparency, and enhance the ability of military and civilian law enforcement agencies to maintain peace and security. Many programs across other sectors -- including health, education, agricultural productivity, micro-enterprise development, and natural resource management -- also support improved governance, human capital development, poverty alleviation, and/or sustainable growth. Health-related assistance programs include reproductive health, maternal and child care, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS control, and avian flu preparedness. The United States also provides humanitarian assistance to internally-displaced persons in conflict-affected areas and to victims of natural disasters (including $5 million in reconstruction assistance for the typhoon-battered Bicol region in FY 2007). In 2006, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) granted $21 million to the Philippines for a two-year Threshold Program targeted at addressing corruption in revenue administration and improving the capabilities of the Office of the Ombudsman. The success of this Threshold Program contributed to the MCC awarding the Philippines Compact eligibility status in March 2008.
Nearly 400,000 Americans visit the Philippines each year. Providing government services to U.S. and other citizens, therefore, constitutes an important aspect of the bilateral relationship. Those services include veterans' affairs, social security, and consular operations. Benefits to Filipinos and U.S. citizens resident in the Philippines from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration totaled approximately $330 million in 2007. Many people-to-people programs exist between the United States and the Philippines, including Fulbright, International Visitors, and Aquino Fellowship exchange programs, as well as the U.S. Peace Corps.